Bacteria can grow on explosives or chemical warfare agents | DISARM project

Bacteria can grow on explosives or chemical warfare agents

The dumped munition at the Paardenmarkt contains a large amount of explosive compounds such as 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and chemical warfare agents such as Yperite (mustard gas). If released into the environment, these compounds could be very harmful to the marine ecosystem. In terms of managing these chemicals, the crucial research question is: are they biodegradable? The researchers at the Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET, Ghent University) are exploring natural microbial communities in the marine system to find novel microorganisms that can withstand or even eat these toxic chemicals. By incubating the marine sediment in the presence of TNT or chemical warfare agents, they observed that some bacteria could grow 'happily’ in such environment. These bacteria are called “Explosive Bacteria.” Jointly, the researchers are working on monitoring the response of microbial communities to toxic chemicals by developing a new flow cytometry-based ecotoxicity test.